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Monday, 3 April, 2000, 06:50 GMT 07:50 UK
UK arming African countries
ugandan troops
UK is accused of supplying both sides in African war
Britain is arming warring African countries in the Congo with the permission of the government, the BBC has learned.

An analysis of government export licences by Radio 4's Today programme found that a host of countries have received British weapons, armoured vehicles and even military training in the past three years.

Britain is supporting both sides - it just robs them of any moral authority

Charles Onyango-Obbo
Zimbabwe, currently the focus of British anger over political violence, is one country to have received arms from UK companies.

So is Uganda, pitted against Zimbabwe in the bloody civil war of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Angola, Burundi and Namibia, also involved in conflict, buy British arms.

Charles Onyango-Obbo, editor of independent Ugandan newspaper The Monitor, told Today: "Britain is supporting both sides - it just robs them of any moral authority and a lot of people rightly do despise the British government in this affair."

The promise of an "ethical foreign policy" was a key feature of Labour's general election manifesto.

But it was dented by a row over continued supply of military equipment and Hawk trainer jets to Indonesia despite the UK's condemnation of the violence in East Timor.
Hawk jet
The government drew criticism over Hawks to Zimbabwe
Earlier this year, leaked reports said Prime Minister Tony Blair had given the go-ahead for Hawk spares to be supplied to Zimbabwe, bringing fresh allegations of government hypocrisy.

Tighter controls

Mr Blair later said the UK was tightening its controls on arms supply to Zimbabwe and other central African countries "where there is a clear risk that it would be used in the DRC".

In granting export licences, the government stipulates an End Users Certificate which is meant to stop British-made weapons falling into illegitimate or illegal use.

But Andy McLean, a researcher into weapons control, says in practice this is impossible to control.

"How can we monitor what is the end use of these weapons?" he told the BBC.

"It is quite possible that weapons which Britain has supplied to Uganda are being pitted against weapons which Britain has supplied to Zimbabwe."

Mr McLean said there should be tighter controls on supply of weapons to regions of instability.

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See also:

10 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Blair 'tightens' Zimbabwe arms sales
11 Feb 00 | UK Politics
Ethical foreign policy row
27 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Cook accused of dumping ethical policy
20 Jan 00 | UK Politics
Row over jet exports to Zimbabwe
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